New Homemade Evaporator

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
810
Massachusetts
Looking at the weather here this coming week we may have an early sap run so I got my taps in today. I'm pretty small time, we only have 20 taps total, but its a lot of fun with the kids. My 5 year old had a blast tapping the trees today.

I put together my MacGyver evaporator today too. Tried a few new modifications but for the most part it's just standard 16x8x8 cinder blocks, pavers for the firebox floor, a 5' section of 6" pipe, and a piece of thin sheet metal.

The pipe and sheet metal are new this year in an attempt to get the smoke further away from the sap. The stack is shaped into the cinder block and there's a 6" gap in the blocks all the way to the floor. My hope is it'll draw air from the front opening and the sheet metal will act somewhat like a baffle and cook top and the smoke will exit up up stack. Im thinking I may have to seal the little gaps between the pipe and block where I stuffed it in but we'll see how it goes.

That's the plan anyways! I'm open to any suggestions or criticism...I'm new at this! !!!

PS - You can see my poor buried oak rounds starting to reappear! Maple rounds under the tarp.

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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,648
Downeast Maine
Do the blocks work? I would think they would crack from the heat. I hope it works well for you, we have a handful of sugar maples I'd like to tap in the future, certainly not enough for a serious business evaporator.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
810
Massachusetts
This is about as high tech as im willing to go right now lol. Some of the blocks will likely crack but they will still function this year and only cost $2 each so its no big deal. I'll toss any cracked ones and save the rest for next year.

This is the plan anyways!
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
915
MA
Neat!

Can go to Lowe's and get firebrick for the floor and one layer around which might protect some. Saw pallets of them in the construction material aisle, and they're cheap enough.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
810
Massachusetts
I thought about fire bricks but I think the regular pavers should work fine, also cheaper. I'm debating making it one level lower overall actually. Being 3 cinder blocks high the firebox is awfully big. Im gonna mess with it tomorrow and see how it looks 2 blocks high.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
915
MA
How much do you make annually?

Love maple syrup. Also have a pint of birch syrup from Alaska in the refrigerator.

I buy 12 quarts of maple syrup at Ocean State Job Lot for friends on the Outer Banks for Christmas. They have it on sale in early December for $9.99/qt. in early December. Want to give friends something New England.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
810
Massachusetts
I have 16 taps in this year, nothing crazy, it's just me and I have two kids under 5 lol. My home is south facing and I get decent sun on my trees so 5-10 gallons of sap each tap for the season is a reasonable estimate. It could very well be more (sometimes 20+ gallons/tap) but I like to be conservative and be pleasantly surprised.

So let's call it 7.5 g/tap x 16 taps = 120 gallons. I'm tapping red maples so usually 50 ish gallons of sap per 1 gallon of syrup. 120/50 rounded up = about 2.5 gallons if syrup or so if it all goes well. I have high hopes for this year!

It's just a fun hobby and the kids enjoy it. It's nice to just hang by the evaporator, split some wood, drink many drinks, and enjoy.

The best syrup I've ever had in my life is from family friends in Northern VT, you just can't beat the micro-sugarers. My favorite commercial syrup is from Dakin Farm in Ferrisburgh, VT. It's expensive...$70/gallon ish....but worth every penny if you're looking to wow your friends. I grew up vacationing there and I've been getting it for over 20 years now as an adult. They have all different sizes and grades.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
915
MA
Someone we know in the neighboring town tapped a few trees in his yard. He was surprised at how much sap he was collecting. It was just buckets, and he had to go home at lunch to empty the buckets.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,648
Downeast Maine
We have a local COOP that sells maple syrup from the local sugar shacks. I probably pay a bit more for it than the big commercial operations, but we only use about a gallon a year anyway. IF we ever tap trees, it would be as a hobby. Especially since we only have about a dozen maples that would produce, most buried in the forest.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
810
Massachusetts
Kind of interesting that yard maples are actually the best producers typically. They get more sun. Definitely just a hobby for me, I mainly do it to have fun with the kids and drink by the fire lol. The syrup is good too tho ;). You'd be amazed how fast it disappears with 2 little kids.
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
915
MA
If anyone is looking for their regional sugar shacks, search: (state name) Maple Producers Association.

Here's MA: Home - Massachusetts Maple Producers Association | Massachusetts Maple Producers Association (massmaple.org)

NH: New Hampshire Maple Producers Association (nhmapleproducers.com)

VT: Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association

ME: Maine Maple Producers Association

CT: Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut - Welcome to the Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut (ctmaple.org)

NY: NYS Maple - New York State Maple

NY (upper Hudson): Maple Syrup & Maple Products In The New York Upper Hudson Region (upperhudsonmaple.com)


We visit K.E. farm, which is just up the hill from Old Sturbridge Village. They produce maple syrup that is sold in the OSV shop.

States usually, maybe not this year, have a maple sugar weekend, where sugar shacks are open to the public. Went to NH's about 10 years ago. Fun time.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,134
Northern NH
There are big commercial operations in Northern VT. I think the biggest one is in Island Pond. There is also a steady black market of Canadian syrup that makes it across the border as due to sugar monopoly in Quebec. My town rented tapping rights to regional processor. I think he had 10,000 taps initially and has expanded since then. The little guys cant compete on price so they compete on tourist dollars and a few specialties. One of the local sugarhouse does maple taffy. Its very thick like taffy. The problem with it is its a supersaturated solution, once its dipped into, it starts to crystalize into lumps of maple hard rock candy. Its absolutely addictive on vanilla ice cream. and rarely is crystallization a issue as it get eaten very quickly.

There used to be temptation to dump beet sugar in the evaporators to boost up production but I think there is way of analyzing the syrup now to detect that. There also used to be selling point that the Canadians could use some product on the taps to keep them open longer as once it warms up the tree tries to close up the taps. I think the US producers could not use it. I think with the new closed microtaps that are closed to the air with vacuum applied that the taps stay open longer.

BTW if you have any white birches, you can make birch syrup after the maple run. White Birches can put out lots of sap but the sugar content is much lower so it takes a lot more wood to boil.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
810
Massachusetts
Did a test boil today just filling the pans with snow. Went well! Excited for the run.

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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,134
Northern NH
Now buy a few metal fence posts and some angle iron and make frame above the bottom trays put two more trays above the bottom ones. Tilt the trays to one side slightly and add a gutter under the drip point so that if anything condenses on the bottom of the top pans, its flows to the edge and then into the gutter and onto the ground. This preheats the sap in the upper pans above the primary pans which increases the efficiency. I think pro rigs will even use a third stage set of pans.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
810
Massachusetts
That's a good idea but a little more work than I want to bite off this season. This needs to be a temporary structure I can take apart and store easily or repurpose. I could make that work...I'll add it to my list of possible improvements for next year!

I am going to make one modification next boil though. I'm going to extend the firebox another 8 inches. I'll just use 2 vertical cinder blocks and add a few more bricks on the ground inside the box. I'll cut a piece of sheet metal to cover the 8 inch gap it'll create on top.

As it stands right now the pan next to the chimney boils nicely but the far pan only warms because it's too close to end of the box/air intake. The chimney drafts pretty well and is sucking all the flames onto that first pan. By extending the box I'll be able to get more heat onto that pan and have two pans boiling at once. I'll grab a 3rd pan or maybe even a disposable foil one to put on that 8 inch metal covered gap to use as a warming pan. It'll chew through more wood but it should greatly increase my efficiency.

I also snagged some food grade 5 gallon buckets with a rubber gasket sealing lid from Lowe's for $5 each. Pretty happy with that price.